I’ve been absent from the blog for over a week, and while that doesn’t mean it’s been quiet — in fact, Tahsir and Amol wrote some very provocative content — I think the circumstances deserve some explanation. It goes to the heart of what motivates me to travel and how all of us set priorities in life.
Two weeks ago my father passed away in Santa Rosa. He was flying back from Palm Springs with his longtime girlfriend, Marsha, and his Comanche crashed just two miles short of the airport. The circumstances of this accident are still unclear, and I don’t care to speculate at the moment. Suffice it to say there will be an investigation by the NTSB and other authorities.
You may remember my dad for his occasionally snarky comments or for sharing a bit of aviation trivia on Twitter. A few of you even met him in person. What you probably didn’t know is that he hated traveling. It was a chore to get him on a commercial airplane. He lived his life on his terms, and his small plane helped him achieve that. In fact the avatar I use is from our first trip together in that plane, flying around the Sonoma Coast.
But I was turning his mind around. He was proud of earning Hyatt Diamond status after a year of flying to his office near San Carlos Airport and racking up nights at the Hyatt Regency SFO. (And understandably irritated when Marsha got an instant status match.) Dad was fiercely loyal to his Chase Sapphire Preferred card and accumulated over 500,000 Ultimate Rewards points through years of use. He even learned how to search for and book award tickets on Alaska using Avios.
What saddens me — beyond the obvious loss — is that neither of us made more effort to use these resources to spend time together. Even the short flight from Seattle to Santa Rosa was something I did just twice a year.
The last time I saw my father over Christmas I argued with him about not feeling at home when I visited. In the dozen years since I left for college he’d moved three times, including to a new city, and made many new friends. It meant that every time I saw him things were more changed and unfamiliar from what I remembered in my childhood. We patched things up by phone shortly before his accident, but when reflecting on that conversation I remember that some of the blame lies with me, too.
I was just a three-hour journey from his house, door-to-door, and perhaps even closer than the drive my sister had to make from the South Bay. As someone who worked from home there was no vacation time to worry about, either. If I felt left out it’s only because I didn’t make the effort to visit more often.
We were making progress on fixing that. This winter we planned a father-son ski trip to Park City and his favorite bar, High West. In the spring Megan and I were going to take both of them on a grand tour of Asia. He hadn’t traveled there for decades, but he still talked about the hawker markets in Singapore. Good food — and good booze — was his passion. I was inspired by the trips that Ben takes with his parents, and I also want to mention the touching story that Brian wrote about how he started using miles to travel with his family, a story that I actually read just hours before my dad passed away. The lesson here is that you shouldn’t miss any opportunity to spend time with those you love.
Even though I wish I had more time to spend with my father, I’m glad in a way that things ended as they did. Dad would talk about how much he hated the thought of retiring, or worrying what he might do if he grew too old or if his memory started to slip. He and Marsha had an endless supply of energy. Megan and I struggled to keep up.
Dad was on the top of his game when the time came: the car he always wanted, the plane he always wanted, the house he always wanted, and lots of friends to share stories with — especially stories about his kids. He’d accomplished everything he ever hoped for, and he knew that we were on the right track.
Nearly 200 people showed up for the memorial service at the Sonoma Jet Center, where we remembered them in a historic redwood hangar surrounded by airplanes on a beautiful day in the California wine country. While I may have felt left out when I visited before it is now very clear that we have a home and a family whenever we come back. I cannot express how grateful we are to everyone who volunteered their time and effort to remember these two people.
In the future I’ll be thinking more carefully about how and where I travel. About a year ago my dad commented that I’d been losing my passion for the blog. That may have been true. Part of it was that it’s a lonely and pointless exercise to dart around the world by yourself if only to accumulate status and points and experiences that you can’t share with others.
I started traveling less if I couldn’t take Megan with me. It’s also a big part of why I was looking forward to traveling more with him. Now I’ll travel with my siblings. This is the first time all three of us have been together in a year since that last trip to Park City, and I don’t want it to take that long before we see each other again.
Remember that when you travel. Life is a journey best shared with others — speaking metaphorically and literally. Whether it’s a drive across town or a flight to the other side of the world, make sure you have someone along for the ride. Some of my best memories are of the trips with my dad when I was younger, and I’ll be thinking of him whenever I travel with my own children in the years ahead.